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It’s not just for few, everyone should play domestic cricket: Rohit Sharma ahead of India’s 5th Test clash with England

To ensure a steady stream of talent, India needs to keep its first-class cricket in good health.

When Rohit Sharma spoke to the media after India’s victory in the fourth Test in Ranchi, he asserted that India will only back those players with the hunger for Test cricket. Implicit in his comments seemed to be the suggestion that Ishan Kishan and Shreyas Iyer, in the news for their reported refusal to play in the Ranji Trophy, didn’t have that desire.

India’s captain Rohit Sharma speaks during a press conference (AFP)

Two days later, the BCCI omitted Kishan and Iyer from the list of centrally contracted players for 2023/24. And with it came a directive that read, “The BCCI has recommended that all athletes give precedence to participating in domestic cricket during periods when they are not representing the national team.”

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Rohit reiterated that view when asked on the eve of the fifth Test. “There has been talk about this for a long, long time. That when the players are available, they’ve got to make themselves available to play domestic cricket, unless they have been given a certificate from the medical group that they want to be rested or will not be taking part in domestic cricket. But if you’re available, if you’re fit, if you’re fine, I think it is important that we go and play that. It is not for just a few cricketers, it is for everyone to make sure that whenever you’re available and fine, you should be able to play domestic cricket,” he told reporters.

“I think it is important. You saw the Ranji Trophy semi-final that was played this week. I watched Mumbai and Tamil Nadu, obviously there was a very interesting game happening today as well, I think Vidarbha won. When games like that happen, you see the quality and everything coming into display for everyone to watch. I think it is important that we give importance to domestic cricket, which I think is the core of Indian cricket.”

‘Don’t know what Bazball is about’

The focus for Rohit, of course, is the fifth Test starting Thursday. Having lost the opening game leading to a chorus of criticism for his team and appreciation for Bazball – the moniker given to the brand of cricket England play under coach Brendon McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes – the India captain is chuffed with the turnaround.

Asked about what he thought of a term that has become part of cricket’s lexicon, he said: “Honestly, I don’t know what Bazball means… whether it is to go and strike? Whether it is to defend and wait for the loose ball? Because I’ve not seen any wild swinging from anyone. I don’t know exactly what this term means. But yeah clearly, they’ve played better cricket than the last series they were here.”

Though India are heading into the final Test in Dharamsala with an unassailable series lead, it is England’s players who have been gung-ho in their public interactions. When Yashasvi Jaiswal was on his way to scoring a sensational double ton in Rajkot, for instance, England’s Ben Duckett claimed that the young Indian opener may have been inspired by their style of play. “I think there was this guy called Rishabh Pant in our team,” Rohit remarked on Wednesday. “Probably Duckett hasn’t seen him bat.”

Rohit, always engaging and entertaining in conversation, also reflected on the lessons he has learned as captain from a series that has tested India at several junctures.

“Though I haven’t studied much in school, I am studying here a lot,” he chuckled. “Whenever I come into a series as captain, my work is to understand the opposition and our team. It is important to understand that every team tries to play differently. Since I became captain, I haven’t played with a full team. It’s no excuse, but it is what it is, so you can’t change that thing. Work with what you have and keep a good atmosphere, play with freedom. That’s what we have done since the first Test.”

Even when we were under pressure and their batters were hitting, we remained relaxed because you don’t get a result after every two or three balls in a Test. As a captain, this was probably the series where I got to learn a lot about how to utilise the players I have and how to respond to certain situations of the game.”


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